Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Journey to the Center of the Green Earth

I have been busy cleaning out my apartment.  It was definitely time to purge, so for a while there, there was literally nowhere to sit while I had bags, clothes, and a myriad of other crap lying over every flat surface.

Ironically, I threw very little in the trash and recycling bin.  Most things had another home to go to.

Once I had sorted the good, the bad and the ugly, I loaded up my granny cart (or, as John and I lovingly refer to it, "the cart that paid for itself" since it's saved us on many an occasion) with all sorts of stuff and began my way down the six flights of stairs and around the neighborhood unloading my stuff.

Here is my journey of how I kept things out of the landfill:

1. C-Town.  This was my favorite drop-off. 

I had been collecting our glass milk bottles to re-use for iced tea and impromptu vases. However, I'd collected so many (17 to be exact) that I no longer had room. It was time for them to head off into recycling-ville.

But as I lifted the lid off my recycling can, John shouted, "Wait!"

Apparently, we'd paid a deposit on those bottles and he wanted to return them to the store. 

I argued a bit with him asking if $.05 was worth the trip.

As it turns out, it was one time I was happy to be wrong as the deposit was not $.05 but rather $1.50!  I collected over $25 for my 17 bottles!  I stood in front of the cashier with a look that clearly frightened her. "Are you sure this is right?" I asked.  She assured me it was. 

 I continued happily on my way with "the cart that paid for itself" and made my way to the next stop.

2. Ventura.  Not the boulevard or the city.  The apartment building.  It's where the Wearable Collections box is.

Wearable Collections is a company I discovered in the NYC area that collects old clothes, bags, and shoes. The things that are in good condition are given to people in need. The stuff that is torn, ripped and headed for the landfill is turned into new fibers to make new things. The in-between stuff is made into rags.

 3. Goodwill.  I did have some household items that were ready for a new home.

4. The Animal Shelter.  Here is where I drop off old towels, sheets, and t-shirts. They are used to line the cages of the dogs and cats.  They are always at a shortage for this type of stuff and much appreciate the donation.

5. Aveda.  I was not shopping but rather dropping off all of the bottle caps I had collected. Well over 100 of them!

Since bottle caps can't be recycled, I collect them at home and at work and turn them over to Aveda who turns them into their bottles.  And sometimes, if you get a really nice salesperson, they'll give you a hand massage or a free sample of hand lotion as a thank you!

6. UPS.  My final stop was the UPS Store where I dropped off all those horrendous styrofoam peanuts I'd been saving from packages at work.  Those were the worst since they seem to fly around and get stuck everywhere.  I was happy to unload those.

I returned home and finished my delivery day by posting some stuff on eBay which turned out to be somewhat lucrative this time around!

The entire process probably took less than 45 minutes and was well worth it.  Not only did I keep a lot of things out of the landfill, but others will benefit from it.

So tell me...what can you keep out of the landfill this week?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thar She Doesn't!

Every Father's Day season when I was growing up, Tom Carvel's raspy voice would come onto our television set and announce that it was time for Fudgie the Whale.  The ice cream cake.  "For a whale of a dad."

So I decided that the first humpback whale I saw in person I would name Fudgie.

John took me on a New York whale watching cruise for my birthday.  Arriving in Riis Landing in Rockaway singing "Rockaway Beach" by the Ramones, we were excited to embark on our three-hour tour (ok...we sang that song, too) to see all sorts of whales and dolphins.

Riis Landing is pretty desolate.  However, there is a very tiny stretch of beach that we found while waiting for our boat to leave that offers free kayaking lessons in the bay.

As we walked the beach, we saw lots and lots of seashells.  And lots and lots of trash.  I started to pick up some of the smaller plastic bags and caps that I knew were immediate threats to the marine life.  John helped, others watched.

Before we knew it, we were aboard our vessel heading out to sea.  Immediately the captain told us of reports of humpbacks in the area.  John nabbed a spot for us at the very end of the boat's bow and we let the sea air flow through our hair like Leonardo and Kate as we raced to the reported spot.

We were told to yell "Thar she blows!" should we be the one to spot Moby Dick first and were informed that there was a $250 prize for the best photo.  I wasn't sure how comfortable I was yelling like an 1800's whaler to a boat full of strangers, but hoped that what we would see would be so huge that I could yell, "I think we're going to need a bigger boat."

With my camera ready, I scoured the vast ocean.  I spotting ginormous freighters and several plastic bags, but no fins.  The bags left me feeling sick to my stomach.

By the time we got to the site, there were schools of bunker, which whales like to feed on, but no whales.  Turns out a humpback can hold its breath for up to an hour.  We waited and then moved on to the next spot.

We covered a lot of ground and our captain did his best to help us spot something but to no avail.  At one point, over a school of bunker, John saw a spray of water shooting out of the surface.  The captain steered the boat slowly over to investigate.  But again, no Fudgie.

Yet it was exciting to be a part of this incredible ecosystem.  We learned from the on-board naturalist that the reason the Atlantic is so dark is because it's one of the highest nutrient-rich waters on the planet.  This is why most of our seafood comes from the Atlantic as opposed to the Carribean waters, which lack nutrients, making them crystal clear.

Not seeing any whales just made us more determined to see them the next time we go. Which we will.

John and I agreed that the next time we do, we will be taking a trash bag with us and doing a bigger beach clean-up on Jamaica Bay.  We might even try our hand at kayaking. And we'll definitely be on the lookout for Fudgie, whose humpback whale song is still easier to understand than Tom Carvel.